What does it say?
Moses continues to teach the Ten Commandments to this new generation (Deu 14). This expands the third commandment, not to take God’s name in vain. God has chosen them to be an example of what it means to be God’s people. Fearing false gods as their neighbors do, or eating unclean creatures would contradict the nature of the true God. From 14:22 through 16:17, the focus is the fourth commandment to keep the Sabbath. This is far more than simply keeping Saturday as a day of rest. Here (14:22-28) various tithes are prescribed for Israel.
The Sabbatical Year continues the application of this principle (Deu 15). God’s people are to reflect his nature in our finances and interaction with others. Israel is again warned not to be controlled by the nations around them, but to represent to them God’s power and goodness. The firstborn of Israel’s flocks are to be set apart to God as thankfulness for his provision.
The three major feasts each year highlight this emphasis of giving God his due (Deu 16:1-17). Deu 16:18-22 begins explanation of the fifth commandment to honor mother and father. Israel is an extended family and everyone is related. Honoring parents is honoring our family, as reflected in the societal laws now established.
What does it mean?
More than cursing, taking God’s name in vain is to profess the one true God, yet deny him by our lives. Our lives should reflect his nature, not contradict it. Some of the issues mentioned are strange to us and have no direct application. The principles, however, are profound. For example, many wonder about Deu 14:21 and the law not to boil a young goat in his mother’s milk. Many suggest that the thought here is not to use that intended to give life (a mother’s milk) to destroy life. The proper use of nuclear energy might be cited as a potential application. The possibilities are endless.
A tithe is 10% and we first met the tithe as Abraham returned from battle offering the tithes of the spoils to the priest Melchizedek in gratitude to God. Israel was obligated to three major tithes as listed here (Deu 14). We are not under the law to tithe in the New Testament, but we are still obligated reflect a generous God by being a generous people. How can we do little or nothing when we have received so much more? All we are seeing in the explanation of the Sabbath principle is learning to give God his due in our generosity, thanksgiving, service and love both for him and others.
How will I respond?
Deu 14:23 reminds me that we give not because God needs my help or my money, but that giving benefits me. Specifically, how do I benefit from giving? Looking at my giving record, what does that tell me about the authenticity of my love and thankfulness toward God? What in my life is due him? What step can I take today to more accurately align my heart with God’s love and faithfulness toward me?